Laois woman tells of being thrown by blast in Beirut

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An Irish woman living in Beirut has told of her experience of the explosion in the Lebanese capital yesterday which killed at least one hundred people and injured thousands more.

Niamh Fleming-Farrell, a native of Laois, suffered scratches to her face, bruising to her back and was knocked unconscious briefly when caught in the blast which occurred less than a kilometre away in the docks.

There are currently 250 Irish citizens in Lebanon, a number of which were caught up in the blast on Tuesday afternoon. It is understood a number sustained minor injuries but none were seriously injured, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Ms Fleming-Farrell told RTÉ radio’s News at One that she was standing outside her book shop, which is closed at present because of the Covid pandemic, when she heard the blast which sounded like the sound barrier being broken.

She said she was thrown backwards by the blast and her premises suffered extensive damage, with all of the windows blown out and book shelves brought down: “The whole place is in chaos.”

There is not a door left, there’s not a pane of glass intact. Thank goodness we weren’t open, if we had been full of customers there could have been serious injuries. We’re very grateful there was no one here but us.

Ms Fleming-Farrell said she, like many other residents of the city, did not realise the extent of the destruction until today. She said that usually when there are car bombs, the damage is localised.

“You don’t understand the scale of it. This time the damage is not local. It’s half the city.”

The Laois woman had a CT scan last night and reported she was fine, though she voiced concern about being able to reopen her café and book store.

“There is not a door left, there’s not a pane of glass intact. Thank goodness we weren’t open, if we had been full of customers there could have been serious injuries. We’re very grateful there was no one here but us.”

Ms Fleming-Farrell is hopeful that the business can reopen “for our sake, for the sake of our employees and for our customers, so we can get back to normal life.

“We’re in the middle of an economic crisis and a pandemic. There is [a] very challenging time ahead.”



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